NEWSWEEK EXCLUSIVE: 'The Real Story of Flight 93'

Flight 93 Cockpit Voice Recorder Details Violent Struggle Between

Passengers and Hijackers Before Crash in Pennsylvania


One Passenger Cries, 'Let's Get Them!' As They Storm the Cockpit


Hijackers Shout 'God Is Great!' and Appear to Deliberately Fly Plane Into the

Ground; In Final Moments Hijackers Fight Among Themselves for the Controls

Nov 25, 2001, 00:00 ET from Newsweek

    NEW YORK, Nov. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Beginning at 9:57 a.m. on September 11,
 the cockpit voice recorder of United Airlines Flight 93 began to pick up the
 sounds of a death struggle between passengers and the aircraft's hijackers.
 There is the crash of galley dishes and trays being hurled, a man's voice
 screaming loudly.  The hijackers can be heard calling on each other to hold
 the cockpit door.  One of the passengers cries out, "Let's get them!"  More
 crashing and screaming.  In a desperate measure to control the rebellion, a
 hijacker suggests cutting off the oxygen.  Another one tells his confederates
 to "take it easy."  The end is near.  The hijackers can be heard talking about
 finishing off the plane, which has begun to dive.  The hijackers cry out, "God
 is great!"  The cockpit voice recorder picks up shouting by one of the male
 passengers.  It is unclear whether the passengers have breached the cockpit or
 are just outside the door.  The hijackers apparently begin to fight among
 themselves for the controls, demanding, "Give it to me."
     (Photo:  NewsCom: )
     In the December 3 issue (on newsstands Monday, November 26), informed
 sources described in detail to Newsweek information that has never been
 revealed before:  the words and sounds picked up by the cockpit voice recorder
 on Flight 93 before the plane crashed in Pennsylvania.  For the past two
 months, Newsweek interviewed the families and friends of the passengers of
 Flight 93 to learn their story.  It's not known who led the charge on the
 hijackers, or how many passengers followed.  Many of the details are missing
 and many questions remain.  But the tapes help resolve a central mystery: they
 strongly suggest that the four hijackers flew the plane into the ground under
 ferocious assault from the passengers.  The tapes give the most complete
 portrait yet of the last minutes of Flight 93.  The lasting impression is one
 of courage, the kind of extraordinary bravery ordinary Americans can show,
 write San Francisco Bureau Chief Karen Breslau, Contributing Editor Eleanor
 Clift and Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas.
     The tape of the cockpit voice recorder of Flight 93 begins shortly after
 9:30 a.m.  The sounds it picked up were grim.  Someone is crying and moaning,
 pleading not to be hurt, not to be killed. Investigators are not sure what
 happened, but the hijackers may have seized a flight attendant and held a
 knife or box cutter to her throat to bring the captain out of the cockpit.  Or
 they may have just barged into the cockpit -- the door is locked, but designed
 to withstand no more than 150 pounds of pressure.
     Some investigators speculate that the hijackers may have slashed the
 throats of the pilots as the two men were still strapped in their seats.  The
 cockpit voice recorder picked up the sound of someone choking.
     At about 9:25 a.m., in the sparsely filled main cabin, passengers had been
 served breakfast.  The pilots had checked in with Cleveland air traffic
 control, uttering a jaunty "good morning."  Suddenly, the air traffic
 controllers could hear the sound of screaming and scuffling over the open
 mike.  "Did somebody call Cleveland?" the controller asked.  No answer.  Just
 the muffled sounds of struggle.  Then silence.  When a hijacker took over the
 controls, he knocked the plane off autopilot.  Signals from the transponder
 show the aircraft jumping up and down.  Then there are the voices of the
 hijackers, sources tell Newsweek, speaking in Arabic, reassuring each other:
 "Everything is fine."
     At Cleveland Center, the air traffic controllers furiously tried to get
 information from Flight 93.  Other planes in the area began listening in to
 the traffic.  A thickly accented man came on the air: "Hi, this is the
 captain.  We'd like you all to remain seated.  There is a bomb on board.  We
 are going to turn back to the airport.  And they have our demands so please be
 quiet."  Investigators think the voice belonged to Ziad Samir Jarrah, the lead
 man, and that he had flipped the wrong switch, thinking he was addressing the
 passengers over the P.A. system when he was calling Cleveland control instead.
 On the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), sources tell Newsweek, Arab voices can be
 heard realizing their mistake.  They know they are overheard by the air
 traffic control and other planes in the area.  The CVR picks up numerous
 clicks and snaps as the hijackers fiddled with switches and knobs, trying to
 make sure they are no longer on the open airwaves.
     Back in rows 30 to 34, where most of the passengers had been confined, a
 rebellion was brewing.  They began whispering among themselves and talking
 about "rushing the hijackers."  Several flight attendants were filling coffee
 pots with boiling water to throw at the hijackers.  No one seems to have paid
 too much heed to their guard, whom investigators believe was a 20-year old
 Saudi identified as Ahmed Alhaznawi, who had a red box strapped around his
 waist which he said was a bomb.
     In the cabin, the hijackers must have realized that the passengers were
 stirring against them.  They apparently decided to abandon the main cabin and
 hole up in the cockpit.  On the CVR, one of the hijackers can be heard telling
 another to let "the guys in now," presumably meaning the other two hijackers.
 There is also a cryptic reference in Arabic to bringing back "the pilot," but
 investigators aren't sure what they meant.  Did they need one of the United
 pilots, lying bleeding on the floor of First Class to fly the plane?  One of
 the hijackers begins praying.  Another suggests using an ax -- there is one
 hanging in the back of the cockpit, to break out in case of fire -- to scare
 the passengers into submission.
     In the back of the plane, knots of passengers were moving about, talking
 to each other, debating how to strike. There was some discussion about what
 they could use for weapons. Some passengers called friends and loved ones to
 say their last good-byes.  The hijackers, meanwhile, apparently decided to try
 to subdue the restless passengers by knocking them off their feet.  Taking the
 plane off autopilot, the hijackers sent the plan lurching and bobbing.
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